Tangled up in feelings

October 13th, 2008

Overture to a yard sale in which a mass of mangled Barbies sold for the unsentimental sum of $2.50.

He said: You’ve got to understand my feelings. I’m watching my daughter’s childhood go out the front door.

She said: That’s true, your daughter’s childhood goes out the front door every day. Let’s not mistake her childhood for a piece of plastic.

The finale: $238 and a change of heart, plus a very happy girl who can bank in all ways on the outcome.

The encore: I nearly forgot! For more on my feelings, or unfeelings, about Barbies, read this magazine article from a while ago. I still find her to be quite the educational toy.


  1. This reminds me of girls I’ve seen who look like Barbie, and I wonder how are their lives different from those of us who look like, well, us. Do their lives contain more plastic or is that just my prejudice?

    Comment by mapelba — October 13, 2008 @ 3:10 am

  2. Great essay! Love it. Recently, my girls on the way home from school mentioned that B word and how they played with them. Any other time in my life I might have been afraid of it. But, I’m a new me and in a new phase and hearing that B word brought hope … and realization that we’re leaving the baby phase.

    The second we got home, I ran upstairs to the attic, and dug deep, to find my old box of old, very rugged Barbies. I have loved watching them put their legs in various positions and hang their heads in between the door of the play microwave. To them, it’s just another toy. To me, well, so much more. They are great teachers, my girls — those Barbies.

    Comment by Shawn — October 13, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  3. I bought my son a barbie when he was 3 I think – he wanted one – my husband was mortified and eventually my son ignored playing with her all together – but dolls were something I had around for my son’s to play with because I felt that playing the nurting role was just as important – perhaps more so for boys as it was girls.

    Comment by Cat — October 13, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  4. That’s a grand finale for a garage sale!

    Comment by Shelli — October 13, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

  5. Great job, Karen! What will your little girl find interesting next? It’s always fun to find out. With $238.00 she will have lots of fun dreaming about what to do with her money.


    Comment by Debra W — October 13, 2008 @ 9:12 pm

  6. I read the essay with my baby girl slurping on my neck … I cried. I love my daughters big fat thighs, her pudgy tummy, everything about her. And if she can be herself and I can love her, the reverse might be true, too. Barbie didn’t make me hate my body. I’m not sure what, if anything did, but the Sagan of the future thanks you for helping her mom realize she doesn’t have to say “because i said so” when Sagan asks, “why no barbies?!” It’s kind of silly to put so much blame on a hunk of plastic. I don’t look like a pony either.

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — October 13, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

  7. I loved your article when I read it a long time ago. It helped me make peace with so many other toys, notably our plastic, light-up, colored, synthesized ridiculous piano that Anise loved!!
    xo m

    Comment by Mika — October 13, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

  8. I read your article when it first came out. It caught my attention. I have saved all my Barbies. Many are 33 years old. I just brought them out of storage and gave them to my girls. They were over the moon for about 48 hours. Now they could care less. ::sigh::

    Comment by Kristin H. — October 14, 2008 @ 12:53 am

  9. mae,
    that article is brilliant!

    Comment by Wendy — October 14, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  10. it was definitely not the barbie that made me hate my body, feel insecure, want to hid myself inside big baggie clothes. i don’t know what did that and i don’t care.

    it was a yoga practice that began so long ago and childbirth 3 times around that makes me feel like my body is just that, a body. i walk more confidently in it because of what i hold inside it.

    i read that article you wrote so long ago, just about when i was struggling with my daughter playing with all my old barbies that my mama sent to us in a package. it really made me proceed with caution. i stopped making verbal references about how Barbie just didn’t represent the female body. duh. like my girl cared or had any freaking clue what i meant. she just wanted to play. and so she does. and i just enjoy it while it lasts.


    Comment by mb — October 14, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

  11. I played with Barbies until I was 12 at least and I think I turned out fairly well balanced… with a feminist perspective as well! I loved all the adventures I would make up for her. My daughter (and son) could care less for her – they are all about any kind of toy animal(LPS, webkinz). What a deal you got. I definately can appreciate that!

    Comment by Robin — October 14, 2008 @ 11:21 pm

  12. Hee, hee! That dialog exchange made me chuckle 🙂

    And hooray for all the other girls full of their childhood selves who will now get to enjoy said Barbies for only $2.50.

    The circle of life continues.

    Good for you both for not allowing it to revolve unnoticed. Awake, even though it can be much more painful, is always better than Asleep.

    Comment by Lisa — October 15, 2008 @ 1:13 am

  13. Wow, I remember the day I sold all my barbie stuff for seven dollars at the yard sale. A nice sum back in 1976. That stuff would probably be worth a fortune now!

    Comment by Patty — October 19, 2008 @ 3:16 am

  14. Wow. Needed to read this one. Turned my nose up at Barbie my whole life, couldn’t fathom how my little sister with the 165 IQ could get enjoyment out of her…your perspective is something I’m very grateful to be reading before I have children…thanks!

    Comment by Melanie J. — February 6, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

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